Claire McCardell

Claire McCardell’s first important job in fashion was as an assistant to designer Robert Turk from 1929-1931. In 1931 she went to Townley Frocks as an assistant to Robert Turk when he was given the job of head designer. After his death, McCardell was given the job of finishing the fall 1932 line and subsequently given the job of head designer. During these years the company began to develop what she referred to as “McCardellisms” – the signature touches that she turned to again and again: bias cutting, metal hook fasteners, wrap tie fasteners, and asymmetrical closings. McCardell's first huge success was in the fall of 1938, the Monastic dress. A dress that had no front, back, or waistline and that tied to suit the wearer. In 1938. McCardell was offered a job at Hattie Carnegie, designing a line called Workshop Originals. McCardell’s casual style did not mesh well with the more glamorous Hattie Carnegie image, so she left in 1940. Townley reorganized and reopened in 1941 and McCardell was named head designer under the condition that her name was on the label. She stayed there until her death in 1958. During that time, McCardell became recognized as a true American original. Many of McCardell’s designs have a timeless quality. This was because she was not trying to reinvent the dress twice a year, but, rather, she kept the design ideas that worked for her and that were comfortable and versatile.

I’ve always designed things I needed myself. It just turns out that other people need them too.” Claire McCardell, 1955. 

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